Saturday, July 25, 2009

Requiem For A Western Belt. Part 3, 3000 miles to Jello

Here are more stories of me and the western belt. A metaphor for greasy lifestyle and traveling to see bands. I have never really been a picture kind of guy, so I never had a camera with me on all those travels. All I have left are ( sometimes hazy) memories of all the twangy, debaucherous times.

In part one, I left off with me and the belt's first trip to Viva Las Vegas. I had to return to Montreal in a hurry because I had a weekly DJ gig doing a Swing night at a swank place called Jello Bar.

I had to get back in a hurry because there were always wannabe DJ's lurking around like vultures trying to get my gig. This place was run like a night club, so there wasn't much loyalty. One missed night and I would have been replaced.

This was at the height of the Swing craze on the East Coast, so every goof with a few swing CD's fancied himself a DJ.

I had been mis-informed about Viva and got there way to early for the event and stayed way to long. Eight days in Vegas is probably more than anyone should be forced to endure.

The Sundays at Viva are pretty relaxed because the event is winding down and lot of people have already left. I watched a bunch of shows and around 1 am or so, switched to coffee. I went to hide at the nickel slots. I was feeling anti-social and my flight left at 6 am. I was all rockabilly-ed out.

I had forgotten that I had made arrangements with the boys from Wild Wax Combo to share a cab. We met up and they were all dressed in suits. They all worked for the Danish airline and that was prerequisite to be able to travel cheap.

We got to the airport and said our goodbyes. Danes are not huggers (good, because I don't like hugging dudes) so it was a round of sturdy Viking handshakes all around and we went our separate ways.

My flight was over booked, so I was upgraded to Southwest with a transfer in friggin' Minneapolis.

When I finally got to my place in Montreal, due to the 3 hour time difference and long flight, had just enough time to order pizza and get the hell to work at Jello Bar, which was, mercifully, only ten blocks away.

This was Monday night at 9 pm, and I had been up since Sunday morning. Needless to say I was wired. That didn't stop me from rockin' out and drinking the copious amounts of beer that I normally drank on my Monday nights at Jello.

I must have been acting especially weird, because people kept asking me what was wrong with me. I would just answer, " I'm on Vegas time, baby!"

I had brought a lot of CD's back from Vegas with me, and, much to the swing dancers' dismay, played Rockabilly all night. I played some tunes over and over again. I think, that for a while, I did indeed truly lose it. When it was all over at 3 am, I had been up for 40 hours.

I was grateful for the swing craze because I got a lot of work out of it. Other than the semi-annual Rockabilly Jam, I was relegated to spinning in shit-hole bars for beer.

With the swing craze in full bloom, all of a sudden, my arcane skills were in demand. I was offered a gig at Jello Bar and I jumped on it. I used to love playing there. I had my own elevated DJ booth. It had a secret entrance and was high enough above the crowd to be insulated from incessant dumb requests. It was my own totalitarian regime.

Swing people and club managers didn't really know what to make of Rockabilly and greasers. I used to get paid after closing time. I would go into into the office, and after deducting my bar tab, the manger would pay me cash. One night the chunk was a little bit smaller. I asked the manager about it and he told me that I had drank 17 beers. He was astonished. I was just surprised that I could still count money after 17 beers.

We had many good bands play for us at Jello Bar in the two or so years that I was there ( see Ray Condo post). The bar, however, was losing money. Swing promoters from coast to coast were losing money as well. The answer was simple; swing dancers didn't drink. They were not barflies, just people obsessed with dancing. They, therefore drank nothing but water. (sometimes right out of the tap in the bathroom).

The manager asked me if I had any ideas. I had mentioned in passing a few times that he should book some rockabilly bands. I told him this time that if he was concerned about booze sales, he should definitely get a rockabilly band. Get a band, get a beer special, turn it loud and they will come.

We booked one of the most hard-assed bands that we could find; The Twistin' Tarantulas.

All the greasers had heard about it. The night of show finally came and all the greasy kats 'n' kittens began rolling in. The Montreal chapter of the Kings 'a' Nuthin' also began arriving. They all gravitated towards my DJ booth and eventually surrounded it. As the evening progressed they started removing their leather jackets and draped them all around my booth like angry black octopi, displaying the scary Kings 'a' Nuthin' logo. It was a sight to behold.

The band was nothing short of amazing. Pistol Pete's powerful delivery and real heavy arrangements of rockabilly standards blew the crowd away. Scared the shit out of the swing dancers.

The night eventually came to an end. The long gone swing dancers and left long ago and only the truly greasy had stayed to the end. The manager came up to me and was very excited. The greasers had cleaned out the bar. The bar ran out of beer around midnight, and the greasy cats proceeded to drink anything else in sight. I think the only thing left was a bottle of creme de menthe or something.

The manager and owners were very happy and I was happy that my predictions about a complete booze-a-rama were proven to be true.

Me and the belt, satisfied that we had been proven right, made our way home. Another greasy night had come to an end.

I would ask my readers to bear with me. There are one or two more posts coming about the belt. I feel that this a story that needs to be told, After all, writing a blog does include a little bit of self-indulgence and that's probably what they were designed for.

The preceding blog was at a pivotal time in my life because I packed up and left for the west coast soon after. The last tales of the belt will be from a west coast perspective. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

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